Mutual fund sales are recovering their momentum after a shaky first quarter, as investors show renewed interest in value-oriented funds.
"We are starting to see more value," said Ed Hipp, the president of Centura Securities in Rocky Mount, N.C., the brokerage arm of Centura Bancorp. "We've been saying, 'Don't keep chasing the big-cap names. Look for value in mid- and small-cap.'"
Investors seem to be heeding that advice, which is good news for companies like KemperFunds of Chicago.
Kemper has traditionally been a big seller through banks, but its overall sales have been hurt in recent months because investors have turned to growth-style funds rather than the bargain-hunting style Kemper is known for.
Gary Kocher, business development manager at Kemper, said data for redemptions through banks were not available so he could not give a net sales figure.
But he acknowledged that investor sentiment had hurt sales and welcomed what seems to be a renewed interest in value investing.
"People are starting to ramp up on the value style again," he said.
The company's difficulties have prompted it to diversify its offerings by introducing more growth-style funds, international funds, and recently a floating-rate fund.
"We want to avoid the peaks and valleys of sector rotation," Mr. Kocher said.
Overall mutual fund sales rebounded in April, the most recent month for which reliable figures are available. Sales of long-term funds totaled $26.8 billion in April, according to the Investment Company Institute. That was 15% less than a year earlier.
But it was an improvement on March, when sales of long-term funds fell 41% from the year before.
In the first quarter, net sales of long-term mutual funds were $42 billion, according to Financial Research Corp. of Boston. That is less than half the total a year earlier.
Fund industry executives have been concerned that Internet trading of individual securities is cutting into sales of mutual funds.
At least one bank is finding that the increasing number of investment choices people face is boosting sales of mutual funds simply because funds seem safe and easy to understand.
"People are getting more and more confused," said Curt Anderson, the president of First Busey Securities in Champaign, Ill., the brokerage arm of Busey Bank.
In recent years mutual fund sales accounted for 45% to 55% of the unit's revenues; sales of individual stocks and bonds and products like unit investment trusts accounted for the rest. But mutual funds now account for 65% of revenues, Mr. Anderson said.